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Another hearing scheduled for opponents of Phillips 66 oil-by-rail plan

Draft Environmental Impact Report

The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission wrapping up public comment Friday after hearing from hundreds of people voicing opposition to an oil-by-rail plan over a two day period.

Not everyone has been heard though, so commissioners must carry those over to the next scheduled meeting on February 25, 2016. 

Opposition to the Phillips 66 plan to increase the number of trains carrying crude oil to refinery near Nipomo got a major boost Friday as well.

Opponents received a key endorsement, as the California Coastal Commission sent a letter to the SLO Planning Commission urging members to reject the proposal based on adverse impacts to the environment.

If the Planning Commission votes no and the company appeals, the proposal could eventually end up before the Coastal Commission, which has regulatory authority over coastal land use. 

Supporters say the proposal's economic benefits would outweigh the potential costs. 

Phillips 66 spokesman Dennis Nuss said Friday, the plan will provide jobs and maintain the area's energy production.

"There's been a decline in both onshore and offshore California crude oil productions, so additional reliable sources of crude are required to ensure that the refinery can continue to meet those critical energy needs and support jobs in the community," Nuss said.

If approved, Phillips 66 said it will hire 200 people for construction jobs, as well as 12 permanent positions in its refinery.

Opponents say jobs aren't worth the project's potential damage.

Eddie Scher, the spokesperson for ForestEthics, an environmental organization that demands environmental responsibility from corporations, said that the choice between jobs and the environment isn't fair.

"I think that they have a strong argument in the sense that we do need every job. We do need well paid jobs," Scher said. "But, we're being asked to make a choice between the long-term health and safety of our community and these specific jobs. And that's a choice no American should ever have to make."

Commissioners won't make a decision until after hearing from everyone later this month.

Phillips 66 says it will pursue other options, should it's proposal fail.

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